The National Robotics Challenge (NRC) has been hosted in Marion, Ohio at Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum on the Marion County Fairgrounds since 2004. Most recently in 2019, there were over 1200 participants from thirteen states and two countries coming to Marion to compete. The NRC uses the county’s strengths, like our amazing volunteers, sponsors, businesses, and especially the county’s students and educators, to showcase what is great in Marion. They demonstrate the MarionMade! principal of “Love Where You Learn” to the world, making them a perfect 2020 Celebrate Marion honoree in the Programs category
This all began in 1986 with the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Robotic Technology and Engineering Challenge in Rochester, New York. It was under the guidance and inspiration of Tom Meravi, Associate Professor from Northern Michigan University, and the late Dr. James Hannemann. Dr. Hannemann passed away suddenly in July 2001, and by 2003, it was announced that the organization was unable to continue sponsorship of the event.
Many thought that this was the end, but on the bus ride back from Rochester to Marion, Ed Goodwin, Ritch Ramey, and Tad Douce discussed the challenges of hosting but agreed Marion could support this event. Since 2004, along with the name change to The National Robotics Challenge, the event has grown from the original two work cells and two pick and place competitions to a competition with twelve robotics contests. It is one of the premier robotics and engineering events in the nation. With the sixteen years in Marion and nineteen prior, it has become is the longest continually operating robotics event in the world and the premier educational event for an open-platform robotics competition.
What makes this competition unique are a few factors. First, there is no specific kit to buy. The NRC believes that engineering is not just about taking the same parts as someone else and changing how they are put together. Instead, they want participants to find the materials and equipment that is best for the problem they are given.
Next, the entry fees are low. This allows the participants and schools to use their money to spend on the materials and equipment to build robots. This also allows more to compete as the costs might be prohibitive otherwise.
Finally, The NRC contests are open to students in 6th grade through graduate school. Students can continue with robotics as they move on, allowing them to network with their peers and also be inspired by those that are at the next level. The competition levels are elementary, middle school, high school, and post-secondary, which includes community college, technical institute, and university undergraduate and graduate students.
The NRC is a competition, with students being judged on their application of technological principles and concepts, and their ability to solve difficult problems through a team approach. The judges come from businesses highly involved in the robotics world. Teams are expected to act and dress professionally, showcasing their talents and their ability to be future potential workforce candidates.
They are judged also on their leadership and how they promote the robotics message in their own community. There is an award specifically given the team/school who has demonstrated the greatest effort in promoting the National Robotics Challenge to their community and/or the world.
Though the completion had to be cancelled in 2020, due to the pandemic, it is scheduled again in Marion for 2021 on April 8-10. The volunteer crew of Ed Goodwin, Tad Douce, Ralph Ramey, Eli Cochran, Mark Robinson, Jeff Branson, and Brad Pottkotter look future to working towards the NRC’s vision to become the premier robotics competition for elementary, middle, high and post-secondary school students around the globe. The National Robotics Challenge, with all it does to showcase the skills and creativity of the robotics future through students’ hard work and highlighting our community to the world, deserves to be a 2020 Celebrate Marion honoree.
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